Disclaimer: I don't like Sonic very much. I'd even go so far as to say that there has never been a truly great Sonic game.
Sure, he's had his moments, but overall his adventures have paled in comparison to the likes of Mario, Crash, and Rayman.
But why is a Sonic-denier reviewing Sonic Mania? After all, it was made by the fans, for the fans - not for utter cads like me. Well, if people only reviewed stuff they liked, criticism would become an echo chamber. No one wants that.
Sonic Mania is inspired by the Mega Drive classics where the blue hedgehog cut his teeth. The visuals, sound, and level design are all so strikingly similar to the originals, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were playing one of them.
And in a way, you are. A bunch of levels from those classics have been torn up and spliced together, creating remixed versions. Essentially, you're playing the best bits of the best Sonic games.
Of course, there are brand new levels and even some lovely easter eggs. There are hidden levels dotted about that contain snapshots of later Sonic games, and you get a Chaos Emerald for completing them.
And in a very real way, Sonic has never felt better. The spiky speedster handles as smooth as butter, and you always feel in complete control of each action.
Basically, Sonic Mania is a love letter. If you grew up playing Sonic, and have fond memories of the Mega Drive games, there's no way you won't fall head over heels in love with this. It's like a best of collection for your favourite artist.
But therein lies Sonic Mania's biggest problem. These might be the best bits of the best Sonic games, but if you didn't like them in the first place, it isn't going to convince you otherwise.
Sonic has always felt unfocused, confused, and frustrating. The fun to be had in the series generally stems from learning a level in intricate detail in order to perform the perfect run, while its genre brethren focus on fun first, then rewarding expertise. I know which I'd rather opt for.
There's nothing wrong with making a Sonic game just to please the fans, but I also feel like there's a great Sonic game waiting to happen, and this feels like yet another missed opportunity.
Sonic Mania should have done for Sonic what Rayman Origins did for Rayman. Take the best bits of the franchise, zoom in on them with a laser focus, and build the entire experience around that.
Instead, we're left with that same confused experience that Sonic has always been - just slightly better. Sonic fans will be pleased, Sonic deniers will still feel justified in their scoffing, the world will continue to turn.
But Sonic was in desperate need of an evolution, and all we got was a celebration of something that wasn't very good to begin with. I think that's a shame for everyone.